We’re all single individuals. What implications does this have for us?
How do we cope with our own separateness?
Rüdiger Safranski on the opposing poles of the individual and society. A new, surprisingly contemporary history of philosophy.
Before all else, each person is a separate individual. This can be a burden we can alleviate by living in a community. But it can also rouse our ambitions to cultivate our individuality. Between these two poles of human existence lie several impressive attempts at living in solitude. This is the subject of Rüdiger Safranski’s new book. It begins with Michel de Montaigne and leads us through the philosophies of Rousseau, Diderot, Kierkegaard, Stirner and Thoreau to the existentialist philosophy of the 20th century. In the course of his book, Safranski examines ways in which we cope with being separate from others — a state that has recently forced itself very unexpectedly into our daily lives.
“Safranski also skilfully presents complex topics in an understandable way [...]. Being Singular shows that he knows how to curb his stupendous erudition and distil the work of great thinkers down to their essence to make them accessible. The book not only encourages us to read the authors he presents, but also offers approaches to reflect on an individual’s practical decisions during the pandemic.
- Paul Stoop, Deutschlandfunk
“This writer, biographer and philosophy historian often inserts Zwischenbetrachtungen, or intermediate reflections, which draw conclusions and summarise. Once again, he proves his skill as a writer here. But at the same time — and that’s wonderful — he lets us glimpse a new intellectual relaxation on the horizon of these sketches.”
- Eberhard Geisler, FR
“In sixteen chapters, Safranski [develops] a kind of phenomenology of what it may mean to find one’s destiny. [...] The examples that Safranski cites seamlessly link the biographical narrative with philosophical reflection. [...] Safranski’s portraits are written in an unobtrusive parlando that does not try to prove anything. Some of them are true masterstrokes. “
- Thomas Ribi, Neue Zürcher Zeitung1
“Safranski’s ability to vividly process less intuitive theories with precision is proven here again and again.”
- Sonja Asal, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
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